The world of collegiate a cappella is quirky, fun, and a little out there. In the celebration of these qualities, we take a look at ways of making a cappella even unique, outlandish, and—well—absurd. We claim no responsibility for the results of actually trying anything we suggest here.
This time we discuss stealing other groups’ material.
Setting the Stage: It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. This is not true—what’s most flattering is when you not only imitate but outright steal material, and ideally improve upon it from there. Across the country, groups are working hard to develop creative performances. With all of that hard work already happening, why bother putting in even more effort on your own part? Just take what someone else has already done.
Song Selection: The priority for song selection should be picking current material. Anyone can steal the choreography off a song that has been on YouTube for five years. When you steal from a newer source, though, there’s a greater level of chance, and often a lesser chance of getting caught, because less people will have seen and heard the source you’re stealing from. You also want to make sure you’re stealing something good—there’s always the risk that you’re going to end up getting caught, and recognized for being a hack. If you’re accepting this level of risk, you have to at least make sure the rewards are worth it—there’s nothing more embarrassing than getting caught for stealing a Creed song.
Setting: When you’re stealing material, the main consideration is not to show off what you’ve stolen in front of the performers who originated it, or the audiences that saw them do it first. Besides the prospect of getting caught, this is just asking for bad blood.
Choreography: When stealing choreography, you should be careful to execute the choreography better than the originators, or to find a way to enhance it. Nothing screams copycat like a weaker rendering of the same movement; if you can really top the originators, you can start to develop the case, explicitly or implicitly, that they are the imitators, and of course you’re the ones who came up with the moves—look at how much better you are at executing them.
Other Notes: A lot of video cameras record a date and time of a performance, and for older cameras, it’s often then default setting to show the date and time. If you’re going to post your stolen material on YouTube, consider adjusting the date and time on your camera and setting it such that the date and time will display on the video when you upload it. Presto-chang-o, that “Bad Romance” arrangement you stole from the group next door is actually something your group has been performing since 1998—now whose face is turning red?